Back in 2009, Sipho Madolo (26) had just given up soccer, and was looking to do something that would challenge him physically and mentally. As fate would have it, not long after, he saw champion cyclists Christoph Sauser, Songo Fipaza and the late Barry Stander cycling with children in the township of Kayamandi in Stellenbosch. The next day Madolo (then 17) asked Fipaza if he could join them, but a shortage of bikes meant that he had to run for three months straight before he could ride.
It was worth the wait. Madolo went on to complete the prestigious Cape Epic seven times in a row. He also finished eleventh in the African Continental Championships for two consecutive years, and has regularly featured in the top ten in the South African National Championships. Madolo has represented South Africa thrice at the UCI MTB World Championships in Europe, and is now aiming for a Commonwealth Games qualifying spot.
“I love cycling because it’s really a tough sport and you don’t depend on so many athletes in the field to do well,” he says. “You have to work your ass off yourself to be race ready or have a good result.” Madolo has enjoyed expert mentorship and coaching from Sauser, who is an Olympic medallist and five time Cape Epic champion, and it wasn’t long before Madolo decided that he too wanted to help others. He works full time as a programme manager at songo.info, an initiative started by Fipaza that teaches young children in Kayamandi how to ride bicycles, entering them into competitions. Fifty children are involved in the programme, which also focusses on homework assistance, life skills education and goal setting. Madolo manages the sports side of things, coaching and mentoring the children, and making sure there’s a balance between sport and education. He loves every minute of it: “The feeling of helping others is more satisfying than anything else I have done in my life,” he says.
“Racing all around the world really gave me the feeling that there are people out there who need help and I have to help where I can. If I am able to race internationally, these kids can do it too, and be even better at it than me, because they have a better setup and a lot of talent.”
— Fatima Asmal